On her sixteenth birthday, she is bartered off in royal marriage and shipped away to a kingdom in turmoil, where her much-older and extremely beautiful husband refuses to acknowledge her as his wife. Devastated, Elisa decides to take charge of her fate and learn what it means to bear the Godstone. As an invading army threatens to destroy her new home, and everyone at court maneuvers to take advantage of the young princess, Elisa becomes convinced that, not only is her own life in danger, the whole world needs saving. But how can a young girl who has never ridden horseback, never played the game of politics, and never attained the love of a man save the world? Elisa can't be sure, but she must try to uncover the Godstone's secret history before the enemy steals the destiny nestled in her core.
I have been excited to read this for months and so I was extremely excited to receive an ARC from Orion books in the post last week. I have just finished it and wow, I enjoyed it!
The original reason that I wanted to read this was because I've seen it compared to Tamora Pierce and Kristin Cashore, and I love Cashore's writing. These reviews were right, in a way similar to Cashore, Rae Carson's debut novel really is a true fantasy, with heroes, bandits, a princess and magic. I was really taken in by the unique story and writing style and the fantastic characters. The pacing is pretty good as well, part 1 is pretty slow but bearable and in part 2 and 3 it picks up and becomes amazing!
What I absolutely adored about this book is how Carson writes a main character who has to deal with the big issues, like political issues and threats to her life as well as the little issues, like how people perceive her and how she sees herself, Carson captures teenage insecurity and mixes it in with a fantastic new world. I did enjoy seeing how Elisa transforms from a shy, overweight girl to a strong, secure leader, though I was annoyed at the way that Elisa's weight was referenced on every page and I found it annoying that she was actually happy to lose so much weight, I was thinking that this book was giving off a 'Beauty is only skin deep' message but the ending changed that.
There's also a fantastic cast of characters, I particularly loved Cosme, who starts out unlikable but becomes a good friend, and Humberto who was totally swoonworthy! I loved the romance as well, how the book starts with Elisa wanting her husband's love, but in the end is developing a new relationship, with the novel ending on a note of hope.
The world building is great, the world could be compared to a historical Spain, with references to a holy language which would be comparable to our Latin and a holy book (the Bible), but don't let this put you off,this book is not religious fiction and is suitable for all religions, the religious aspects are well hidden and as a non-religious person myself I didn't find it offensive or pushy at all.
An absolutely fantastic debut that any fantasy lover will devour! I would recommend this to anyone, but particularly fans of magic and romance.
Overall rating: A
Stand alone/series: First in a series
UK Release: September 2011
Publisher: GollanczBook obtained via: Sent by Orion Books in exchange for an honest review
Many thanks to Freya and Jonathon at Orion for sorting out this copy for me, look out for my interview and giveaway with the author!